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When your line manager's recreational reading is the IBM Handbook.

How I got here in the end. Picture this: you're a former drug dealer who has turned to hacking for a living. You're crashing in an apartment a bit older than Texas, surrounded by about seventeen computers, sleeping on a futon with a girlfriend with metre-long purple dreadlocks, and planning your defection from one net-based futuristic corporation to another over Korean take-away food. [more inside]
posted by bitmage on Apr 18, 2014 - 20 comments

 

"writers are going to get it wrong, and that’s okay"

"This is specifically challenging in science fiction and fantasy, where there are often so many ways to heal someone–from super-science to ancient sorcery. And yet there are issues with miracle cures in fiction. For one thing, they rob disability of its narrative power. For another, they play into the problematic narrative that people with a disability somehow “deserve” it." -- Elizabeth Bear talks about writing characters with disabilities in science fiction and fantasy in a guest post for Sarah Chorn's Special Needs in Strange Worlds column.
In this SF Signal column, Sarah Chorn explores how fantasy and science fiction treat disability, through reading lists, author interviews and the examination of characters with disabilities like Tyrion Lannister.
posted by MartinWisse on Apr 17, 2014 - 26 comments

Woodward is Elmore’s ‘Heart of Darkness’

Elmore Leonard's Detroit. With map. Part of Grantland's Detroit Week.
posted by xowie on Apr 16, 2014 - 5 comments

...not a neutral exercise.

"Why Do Chinese People Have Slanted Eyes?" By Amanda Lee Koe (Text essay, possibly nsfw)
posted by zarq on Apr 16, 2014 - 23 comments

The Game of (a Writer's) Life

Aspiring writers often ask established authors, "How did you do it?" The truth is that there is no single path to literary success. We sent a nonscientific survey to writers participating in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books: Did they keep a diary as a child? Did they ever have a book rejected? Did they earn a living from writing? We tabulated more than 200 responses to make the board game below. Roll a die and see where the writing life takes you.
posted by shivohum on Apr 11, 2014 - 28 comments

Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen’s Homegoing. "He is the only writer ever to win the National Book Award for nonfiction and fiction, but it’s not just the writing: Born into the East Coast establishment, Matthiessen ran from it, and in the running became a novelist, a C.I.A. agent, a founder of The Paris Review, author of more than 30 books, a naturalist, an activist and a master in one of the most respected lineages in Zen. As early as 1978, he was already being referred to, in a review in The New York Times, as a 'throwback,' because he has always seemed to be of a different, earlier era, with universal, spiritual and essentially timeless concerns." Peter Matthiessen, Lyrical Writer and Naturalist, Is Dead at 86.
posted by homunculus on Apr 5, 2014 - 40 comments

How Reader's Digest Became a Chinese Stooge

How Reader's Digest Became a Chinese Stooge Larkin was delighted when Reader's Digest said it would take her work for one of its anthologies of condensed novels. Thirst would reach a global audience and – who knows? – take off. Reader's Digest promised "to ensure that neither the purpose nor the opinion of the author is distorted or misrepresented", and all seemed well. [more inside]
posted by modernnomad on Mar 30, 2014 - 38 comments

Doña Quixote

My Dementia: Telling who I am before I forget, by author Gerda Saunders
posted by zarq on Mar 21, 2014 - 16 comments

Dig out your sparkly pens again

When was the last time you got something in the mail other than the water bill or a pizza menu? Why does mail always have to be bad news? Groups online are reviving the dying tradition of penpals and sending the most wonderful, creative letters and notes across the globe, making the moment the mail drops onto the doormat exciting instead of dread-inducing again. Bonus link - the League of Extraordinary Penpals, who "think that writing a letter snuggled under a blanket with a cup of tea and a cat by your side is a better way to spend your Friday night than hanging out at the bar."
posted by winterhill on Mar 17, 2014 - 36 comments

"I really like polyhedra."

Polyhedra and the Media - On the new polyhedra of Schein and Gayed, and mathematical journalism.
posted by Wolfdog on Mar 11, 2014 - 20 comments

Miles and Miles of No-Man's Land

"Certainly, there appears to be a large correlation between artists and depression. But I would argue that artistic expression is not a symptom of depression so much as a response to it. I see writing as an act of resistance against an occupying enemy who means to kill me. It’s why I’m writing this now." YA author Libba Bray on living with depression.
posted by changeling on Mar 6, 2014 - 15 comments

A Questline About Thieves Who Never Steal Anything

Shamus Young examines the idea of "story collapse" (the moment where a story reaches a critical point of ridiculousness and causes you to question every other aspect of it) by deconstructing the Thieves Guild quest-line in Skyrim: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5. Entertaining reading for writers, designers and gamers alike.
posted by codacorolla on Mar 4, 2014 - 90 comments

A tiny cog in the great wheel of imaginative literature

The drama issues from the assailability of vital, tenacious men with their share of peculiarities who are neither mired in weakness nor made of stone and who, almost inevitably, are bowed by blurred moral vision, real and imaginary culpability, conflicting allegiances, urgent desires, uncontrollable longings, unworkable love, the culprit passion, the erotic trance, rage, self-division, betrayal, drastic loss, vestiges of innocence, fits of bitterness, lunatic entanglements, consequential misjudgment, understanding overwhelmed, protracted pain, false accusation, unremitting strife, illness, exhaustion, estrangement, derangement, aging, dying and, repeatedly, inescapable harm, the rude touch of the terrible surprise — unshrinking men stunned by the life one is defenseless against, including especially history: the unforeseen that is constantly recurring as the current moment.
Philip Roth on his life as a writer.
posted by shivohum on Mar 4, 2014 - 16 comments

"Fuck the prose, no one's going to read your book for the writing..."

Creative writing professor Hanif Kureishi says such courses are 'a waste of time' [The Guardian] Buddha of Suburbia author, who teaches subject at Kingston University, added that many of his students could 'write sentences' but not tell stories.
posted by Fizz on Mar 4, 2014 - 123 comments

"Don't be like I was you can be better"

Convicts write letters to their past selves.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering on Mar 3, 2014 - 8 comments

Cold Equations and Moral Hazard

Legendary science fiction editor Gardner Dozois once said that the job of a science fiction writer was to notice the car and the movie theater and anticipate the drive-in – and then go on to predict the sexual revolution. I love that quote, because it highlights the key role of SF in examining the social consequences of technology – and because it shows how limited our social imaginations are. Today, we might ask the SF writer to also predict how convincing the nation’s teenagers to carry a piece of government-issued photo ID (a driver’s license) as a precondition for participating in the sexual revolution set the stage for the database nation, the idea that people are the sort of thing that you count and account for, with the kind of precision that the NSA is now understood to bring to the problem.
posted by brenton on Mar 3, 2014 - 64 comments

A Vampire is a Flexible Metaphor

Meghan McCarron interviews Kelly Link for Gigantic magazine. They talk about The Vampire Diaries, fanfic, patterns in stories and the craving for distortion, among other topics. Great news for Link fans: she has a new short story collection, Get in Trouble, coming out in 2015 and is working on a novel!
posted by daisyk on Mar 2, 2014 - 23 comments

¶¶˄↗][#

A Conversation With My Copyeditor
posted by the man of twists and turns on Feb 28, 2014 - 37 comments

Lord Cobham was burnt alive, but I forget what for

15 year old Jane Austen wrote a satrical history of English monarchs and now you can read it.
posted by The Whelk on Feb 25, 2014 - 19 comments

Amtrak choo-choo-chooses writers for residencies

One writer's Tweet wishing Amtrak had residencies for writers results in just that.
posted by wintrymix on Feb 24, 2014 - 95 comments

10 Famous Writers Who Don't Use Modern Tech to Create

10 Famous Writers Who Don't Use Modern Tech to Create [more inside]
posted by Evilspork on Feb 21, 2014 - 100 comments

Putting off writing

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators "Over the years, I developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators: We were too good in English class. This sounds crazy, but hear me out."
posted by dhruva on Feb 16, 2014 - 84 comments

I'd buy that for a dollar...

"If you want to predict the future, just think about how bad it could be and make a joke out of it, and there you go."
Ed Neumeier on the writing of the original RoboCop.
posted by mokin on Feb 14, 2014 - 73 comments

on literature and elitism

These days, the idea of being a “good reader” or a “good critic” is very much out of fashion — not because we believe that such creatures do not exist, but because we all identify as both. The machine of consumerism is designed to encourage us all to believe that our preferences are significant and self-revealing; that a taste for Coke over Pepsi, or for KFC over McDonald’s, means something about us; that our tastes comprise, in sum, a kind of aggregate expression of our unique selfhood. We are led to believe that our brand loyalties are the result of a deep, essential affinity between the consumer and product — this soap is “you”; this bank is “yours” — and social networking affords us countless opportunities to publicise and justify these brand loyalties as partial explanations of “who we are”.
posted by latkes on Feb 12, 2014 - 68 comments

How Iowa Flattened Literature

How Iowa Flattened Literature
The Iowa Writers’ Workshop emerged in the 1930s and powerfully influenced the creative-writing programs that followed. More than half of the second-wave programs, about 50 of which appeared by 1970, were founded by Iowa graduates. Third- and fourth- and fifth-wave programs, also Iowa scions, have kept coming ever since. So the conventional wisdom that Iowa kicked off the boom in M.F.A. programs is true enough. [...] Over the past 40 years, creative writing’s small-is-beautiful approach has served it well, as measured by the discipline’s explosive growth while most of its humanities counterparts shrink and cower. The reasons for this could fill many essays. For one thing, creative writing has successfully embedded itself in the university by imitating other disciplines without treading on their ground. A pyramid resembles a pedagogy—it’s fungible, and easy to draw on the board. Introductory math and physics professors like to draw diagrams too, a welcome analogy for a discipline wishing both to establish itself as teachable and to lengthen its reach into the undergraduate curriculum, where a claim of pure writerly exceptionalism won’t cut it.

posted by deathpanels on Feb 10, 2014 - 35 comments

“This world is a veil, and the face you wear is not your own.”

Last week's episode of True Detective featured a stirring tent-revival sermon from a wildly charismatic preacher. It was heavily edited with dialogue between the stars of the show. Nic Pizzolatto (the writer/creator of the series) thought it so good, he released the full 6-minute sermon for you to enjoy. [more inside]
posted by lattiboy on Feb 1, 2014 - 175 comments

Girls Fighting (or Helping) Evil

Laura is super passionate about girls fighting evil, creating collages with short stories about various groups of girls fighting off demons - from radio DJs and the interns at Night Vale, to Dorothy Gale, travelers, and of course Beyonce. Sometimes the girls are helping the demons: evil counterparts to Cinderella, Belle, and Snow White, the underwater orchestra, even the underlord's admin assistant. Sometimes they fight each other; sometimes they fight themselves. Some of these fighters are real. Sometimes they'll let you borrow their style.
posted by divabat on Jan 31, 2014 - 8 comments

Potterverse Worldbuilding

The extended setting of the Harry Potter series is fertile soil for fans interested in worldbuilding, especially since the release of Pottermore (previously), a companion site to the books that includes back-story and adjunt information direct from J.K. Rowling. Some of these worldbuilding projects include explorations on wizarding fashion, magical education (including other magical schools), fantastic beasts (and perhaps where to find them), Muslims at Hogwarts, and the next generation of Hogwarts students. [more inside]
posted by divabat on Jan 30, 2014 - 116 comments

Keep it short and descriptive

The Shortest Science Paper Ever Published Had No Words
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Jan 29, 2014 - 44 comments

Persistence.

On Persistence, And The Long Con Of Being A Successful Writer. by Kameron Hurley
posted by crossoverman on Jan 22, 2014 - 81 comments

Craig Strete: transmuting anger into art; Native American sci-fi

Jorge Luis Borges called the stories of Craig Strete “shattered chains of brilliance.” Salvador Dali said, “like a new dream, his writings seizes the mind.” First published in1974 and then again in 1977, [The Bleeding Man] has its foreward written by none other than the great Virginia Hamilton who dubs him “the first American Indian to become a successful Science Fiction writer” and says that “the writing is smooth and unassuming, and yet the fabric of it is always richly textured.” The Bleeding Man and many other out-of-print titles by Strete are available in eBook format[s (PDF, PRC, ePUB)] for free. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Jan 15, 2014 - 8 comments

I'm a pretty big deal in Japan.

You might not know me, but I’m famous. Don’t feel bad. Until recently, I didn’t know I was famous either, and most days, even now, it’s hard to tell.
posted by graventy on Jan 12, 2014 - 64 comments

Structure

I had done all the research I was going to do, assembled enough material to fill a silo. And now I had no idea what to do with it - John McPhee, on narrative structure. [more inside]
posted by Turkey Glue on Jan 9, 2014 - 16 comments

What Monkeys Eat: A Few Thoughts About Pop Culture Writing

If you think monkeys are fascinating and you want to understand and be of value to them, it's not enough to be an expert on what monkeys should ideally eat. You have to understand what monkeys actually eat.
posted by paleyellowwithorange on Jan 2, 2014 - 29 comments

Best Longform of 2013

2013 had a lot of great longform writing. Longreads and Longform lead the way with their best of lists. Lots of sites provided year end lists: The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Business Week Buzzfeed, The Daily Beast, Dazed Digital, Deadspin, Esquire UK, FlavorwireGawker, Inc., Impose Magazine, Indiewire, i09, Lifehacker, Maclean's, Mashable, Mother Jones, National Geographic, National Journal, The New Yorker, On Earth, Out, Pocket, ReadWrite, Slate, Spin, Sports on Earth, The Electric Typewriter, The Verge, The Voice Media Group, and The Washington Post. [more inside]
posted by reenum on Dec 30, 2013 - 37 comments

The Daily Routines of Famous Writers

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” The daily routines of famous writers. [more inside]
posted by SpacemanStix on Dec 29, 2013 - 36 comments

Making Excuses for Science Fiction

When I published my first novel 20 years later, I found myself faced with the same challenge: how do I talk about this book to people whose entire conception of science fiction and fantasy are built around Star Wars and The Hobbit? How do I convince folks that stories about the dissolution of a marriage in Montreal in 2155 are just as serious an endeavor as writing about the dis­solution of a marriage in Montreal 1955?
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Dec 27, 2013 - 43 comments

Does Your Character Sparkle In Any Way?

Hey! It looks like you're trying to write an original character for your fiction/fanfic/RPG, why not run it through The Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test and make sure you're not actually writing a self-insert wish-fulfillment fantasy.
posted by The Whelk on Dec 22, 2013 - 71 comments

A Novel Use

Stuck on that novel or just looking for some writing inspiration? Swing by the WritingPrompts subreddit for a wealth of clever prompts, each with a different set of constraints. Be sure to browse the stories submitted in the comments. [more inside]
posted by spiderskull on Dec 21, 2013 - 3 comments

Enoby, Evony, Egogy, and Tara

The worst thing ever written - The terrible, wonderful weirdness of fake fanfiction.
posted by Artw on Dec 21, 2013 - 36 comments

Dad?

"What happened to Homeland this season?" (Major spoilers throughout!) [more inside]
posted by Potomac Avenue on Dec 17, 2013 - 179 comments

The 2013 Black List

The 2013 Black List has been released.  For those unfamiliar, the “Black List” is a list of the most liked unproduced screenplays circulating around Hollywood, as voted on by over 250 film executives, and past Black List scripts include The Social Network, Saving Mr. Banks, The King’s Speech, and Slumdog Millionaire.
posted by Artw on Dec 16, 2013 - 124 comments

Computers can be creative

Having trouble coming up with an idea or a SEO friendly title for your next web article? Portend's Content Idea Generator comes to the rescue.
posted by reenum on Dec 15, 2013 - 35 comments

Epic Fail

Demand Media, once valued higher than the New York Times, is seeing a rapid decrease in profits because of Google changing its search algorithms. Does this mean the beginning of the end for "content farms"?
posted by reenum on Dec 10, 2013 - 41 comments

"It was much, much more fun being absolutely unknown"

Laurie Penny interviews Neil Gaiman on his career, success and influence.
posted by paleyellowwithorange on Dec 5, 2013 - 11 comments

Will NY turn into a city with museums but without culture?

The city is a fountain that never stops: it generates its energy from the human interactions that take place in it. Unfortunately, we’re getting to a point where many of New York’s citizens have been excluded from this equation for too long. David Byrne comments on New York's hospitability to creative types.
posted by shivohum on Dec 5, 2013 - 86 comments

Bad sex, or good sex written badly? With added cheese.

In the UK Guardian: Eight passages of raunchy prose are in contention for Literary Review's bad sex in fiction award. [some passages are ikky to read] [more inside]
posted by Wordshore on Dec 3, 2013 - 40 comments

Sadly entirely too accurate

"He logged onto the central network using his personal computer, and waited while the system verified his identity. With a few keystrokes he entered an electronic ticketing system, and entered the codes for his point of departure and his destination. In moments the computer displayed a list of possible flights, and he picked the earliest one. Dollars were automatically deducted from his personal account to pay for the transaction." -- If all stories were written like science fiction stories, by Mark Rosenfelder.
posted by MartinWisse on Nov 29, 2013 - 116 comments

You can’t sit in the chair; there’s already a cat in it.

"You are standing in a hallway at nine in the morning, facing a dining room/kitchen to the south. To the west are stairs up. To the north is an office." -- The Writing Life as interactive fiction, as lived through by Patricia C. Wrede.
posted by MartinWisse on Nov 26, 2013 - 19 comments

Calamari a la Mode

On the Lovecraftian Mode - Gord Sellar on why he writes lovecraftian fiction. Elizabeth Bear on the same question. I. N. J. Culbard on adapting Lovecraft.
posted by Artw on Nov 12, 2013 - 22 comments

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